No Gym, No Problem

Cooped up because of COVID-19? You can still find many ways to stay active and fit at home.

Just because your local fitness center is closed, doesn't mean you have to be sedentary while you are self-quarantined.

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Chances are your local fitness center is closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. If it’s not, you’re wise not to work out in a crowded gym populated by people breathing heavily, exhaling saliva droplets, and touching the same exercise equipment as you—essentially, the equivalent of pumping iron in a Petri dish.

But that doesn’t give you a free pass to be sedentary while you’re self-quarantined. Although you can’t hit the gym, you can continue an effective workout program in and around your home.

After all, you still need aerobic exercise to help your heart and lungs, as well as resistance exercises to maintain your musculature and support your bones and joints. Staying physically active can have positive effects on your mental state and, at least temporarily, take your mind off the COVID-19 concerns. Plus, if you can exercise outdoors, you can combat cabin fever and keep from going stir crazy by being cooped up for a lengthy period.

Importantly, exercise can help boost your immune system, which is vital to fight off infections like COVID-19.

So, until you can return to the gym, consider these ways to stay active and reap the many benefits of physical activity in and around your home.

Cardio Options

Aerobic exercise can encompass activities as simple as taking a brisk walk or jog around your neighborhood, a park, a hiking trail, or along the beach. Just follow recommended protocols for social distancing (e.g., keeping at least 6 feet of space between you and others). Many outdoor activity areas remain open, but check with your local parks and recreation department to be sure.

At home, try walking/jogging on a treadmill, or repeatedly climb the stairs for a good workout. Or, you can ride out the pandemic on a bicycle or stationary bike.

If you have no such equipment, try stand-in-place cardio exercises like these that work multiple areas of your body while elevating your heart rate and respiration:

High-step marching/walking in place: Alternate raising your left and right knees toward your chest, keeping your elbows bent and your arms pumping with each movement.

Jumping jacks: Stand with your hands at your sides and your legs together. Jump and spread your legs slightly past the width of your shoulders while raising your arms overhead. Return to the start position and repeat.

Lateral shuffle: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, your knees slightly bent, and your arms bent at your sides. Push off with your left foot and jump about 1 to 2 feet to your right, and then immediately jump back to your left.

And, since you’re stuck at home and spring is approaching, now’s the time to get busy with gardening and other household projects, all of which can keep you physically active.

Whatever you do, aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (such as brisk walking, biking and swimming) each week, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity (e.g., running, jogging, and brisk walking on hilly terrain) weekly.

Keep Up Your Strength

At home or anywhere else, you have the basics for building muscle: gravity and your body weight. From push-ups to planks, squats to sit-ups, and leg extensions to lunges, you can target all the major muscles of your arms, legs, chest, shoulders and the core muscles of your abdomen, back, and pelvis using nothing more than your weight as resistance.

But, to increase the intensity of your strength training, add some resistance—and you don’t need expensive weight machines. For instance, you might purchase a set of dumbbells, barbells, or kettlebells in varying weights for home use.

Or, as a more affordable and (literally) flexible option, you can buy a decent set of stretchy resistance bands with varying tension levels for about $25. The bands are highly portable, practical, and adaptable, allowing you to modify your workout on the fly simply by changing your movements and/or increasing the resistance by shortening or lengthening the band.

Whatever you choose, try to do at least two to three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions of each resistance exercise on two to three days a week. Wait two to three minutes between sets, and give each muscle group 48 hours between training sessions to recover.

Take Precautions

COVID-19 virus is believed to spread through close contact with other people, through respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing, or potentially by touching objects or surfaces contaminated with the virus.

Experts do not believe COVID-19 is spread through perspiration. Nevertheless, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces daily to help prevent the spread of the virus.

So, before and after your workout, wash your hands, and wipe off any mats, barbells, resistance bands, or other home exercise equipment—using a disinfectant wipe with at least a 70 percent alcohol content—especially if you share the equipment with anyone in your household. In doing so, you can keep exercising, maintain your wellbeing, and minimize your risk of infection.

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Jim Black

Jim Black has served as executive editor of Cleveland Clinic’s Men’s Health Advisor newsletter since 2005. He has written about prostate diseases, men’s health, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and a wide … Read More

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